Scuba Diving and Diabetes

I was diagnosed as a type 1 diabetic in January. Prior to being diagnosed, me and my husband were both certified divemasters. I now have my blood sugars under very good control and I am looking to get back into diving. We have read all of the studies done by the divers alert network and I meet their guidelines. That said, I was wondering if anyone has any advice on diving with diabetes. How colder water might effect blood sugars, advice on how it compares to the effects of exercising on blood sugars. Any thoughts and advice would be appreciated.

Cold water effects my blood sugar levels significantly, and way more than regular exercise. However, as we all know, no two diabetics are alike. I would recommend finding a safe way to experiment with your blood sugar and cold water / water activities before trying a dive, and seeing how that goes. Best of luck, that sounds like fun!

I haven’t dived for years, but I did go on a number of dive trips about 5 years ago, while using an insulin pump. Of course, I disconnected while I was in the water, and tried to make sure my levels weren’t changing quickly in either direction before a dive. I was fine. I don’t remember ever going low while diving. I probably ran high sometimes when I got out, but I just treated it and came back down. We even did the Blue Hole in Belize, down to 120 feet, and I was fine. I was really careful and ran my levels high (around 200 maybe?) for any dive that didn’t allow me to surface immediately if I needed sugar. That seems like the big danger, if you need to come up but can’t because of the nitrogen. Is there a CamelBack or something that would allow you to take juice down on a dive with you? I never looked into it, but that might help you if you are leading a trip and responsible for other divers.

I’m sure you’ll have to experiment to find the right approach for you in different water temps and on different types of dives. I bet you’ll be fine once you get to know how your body responds to it. Just be careful at first. Maybe have a glucagon injection in a dry bag on the dive with you? I don’t know if that’s possible either…but your dive buddy could conveivably administer it under water if necessary.

Hi Beth and Clemma - Thanks for the tips. Just like everything else with diabetes, it seems like this will take some experimentation. I’m hoping to do a few practice dives sometime over the next few weeks. I think I’ll approach it the same way I do any other type of physical activity - test before I go in and eat something if I need too. It sounds like its a good idea to keep my blood sugar a bit on the high side to prevent lows during the dive.

What are the current protocols for Scuba & T1 diabetes anyway???

Hey! Just wanted to ask you a quick question? What do you do while diving. Are you on the pump ? Do you disconnect and go back to mdis? The reason i am asking is because i am going to swim with and interact with dolphins in nov at epcot. And was wondering if you know of any pouches water proff for this activity so i would not have to disconnect? Take care . diabeticidol94

The Diver’s Alert Network (DAN) established guidelines for diving with diabetes. You can find information about it here:

Basically you should be in decent overall physical health. I check my blood sugar at least three times before getting in the water to make sure its not going down: about 1 hour before, 30 minutes before and then right before I suit up. I like to get my blood sugar up around 180 before a dive so I always have glucose tabs and some snack bars withe me on the boat. I limit my dives to 60 minutes duration max and I don’t do any decompression diving. I’ve found that my blood sugar can drop as much as 100 points during a dive and I don’t want to risk going too low during a lengthy decompression stop. Both my husband and I also carry glucose gels with us during the dive, I’ve found that the tubes can with stand the pressure and water doesn’t get inside.

Overall, scuba diving is awesome! And I have not had any problems with my diabetes and scuba diving.

Hi there - I’m not a pumper, I’m on shots. I don’t know much about pumps but imagine you would have to disconnect from it to go swimming. I think they make waterproof cases for iPods these days, that might be something you could look into for your pump. Sorry I don’t have much more info for ya.

Also, you are going to the LOVE the dolphins! I did a dive with trained dolphins about 4 years ago or so and it was an awesome experience! The dolphins kinda reminded me of puppies in a way that they were very playful and curious and tactile - they would swim right up next to you and you could pet them. Enjoy your trip!

This may be of interest to you: - it was a scuba training for adolescents with type I.
Colleen is a member of Tudiabetes.

I just got my open water certification in Roatan, Honduras. The diving was really amazing. I did 11 dives while I was there including a 110ft wreck dive and a shark dive so fun! I was pretty concerned about having a low while I was under so I made sure to be at least 180 before each dive. I also came up with a hand signal for low blood sugar with my buddy which was an “L” to the forehead (the loser sign ha ha). My dives were all over 50 minutes and they really took a lot out of me. I often felt pretty wiped out after and my BG would end up around 100 when I was done. I can’t wait to do more diving I’m definitely hooked. One other thing to note, I use a Dexcom CGM and diving was not good for my sensors. Spending so much time in the water made them fall off. I ended up ditching the Dexcom while I was down there and went back to using my Onetouch meter. Happy Diving!